BOSTON — The Celtics announced they have signed forward Ryan Kelly Friday. The Celtics signed him immediately after he cleared waivers following his release by the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday.
Barring a multi-player trade, Kelly will fill an affiliated player slot on the Maine Red Claws, which would have gone to Ben Bentil before he was waived Friday.
The 6-foot-11, 230-pound stretch four is 25 years old after three seasons with the Lakers. He showed promise to be a rotation player in his rookie season, most notably when he visited the Garden and scored 20 points in a surprise win over the Celtics.
However, his play has declined over the past season, and he was deemed superfluous for the Hawks, who also have heavy competition to make their final roster. The Hawks are one of the few teams in the NBA who still do not have an official D-League affiliate, preventing them from utilizing the affiliated player designation.
The move comes in the wake of the Celtics waiving Ben Bentil, as expected. Danny Ainge drafted Bentil at the end of the second round, but always knew it was unlikely he could hold on to him. Bentil did not want to play in Maine and received a multi-year deal with a partial guarantee this season.
The Celtics ate the guarantee and waived him Friday, but Bentil refused to join the Red Claws as an affiliate player. NBA teams can claim up to four affiliate players, who are players cut from the training camp roster who can then be forced to play for the team’s D-League affiliate if they agree to play in the D-League.
Affiliate players’ contracts are in agreement with the D-League and not the individual D-League team, meaning they are free agents to the entire NBA. However, this does allow the affiliate team to keep the players in-house and have an easy path to teach them their system, as the Celtics do with the Red Claws.
Putting Kelly in Maine gives the Celtics a chance to have him learn their system in the event that he gets called up after a multi-player trade that leaves a roster spot open. The Celtics would have preferred to bring Bentil up to Maine, but he will pursue an NBA deal before considering the poor-paying D-League or a more substantial deal overseas.
This is not necessarily an indication of the future for James Young or R.J. Hunter, who have been shopped league-wide for the past 48 hours according to multiple reports. The reported asking price has been a future second-round pick, which is an unfortunate market condition for Ainge. It is unsurprising considering that one of the players will hit waivers Monday if no trade occurs.